On 25-27 September, the world’s governments will adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. During the past fifteen years, the Millennium Development Goals have strongly contributed to creating a better world. However, even though we have come very far in the process, we are not there yet. The 2030 Agenda offers an opportunity for a better future, in which we have a greater chance to tackle current and upcoming challenges.
The agenda sets out a list of ambitious goals and targets across broad areas of sustainable development, including poverty eradication, health, inclusive economic growth, sustainable use of ecosystems, and promotion of peaceful societies. We have learnt from previous experiences that it is easier to set targets than to achieve them. While the adoption of the agenda is an important achievement, governments must take ambitious action to implement the agenda. As young people we want to take an active role in this crucial process. We have already proven we have the necessary skills, knowledge and determination.
Unfortunately, young people’s voices are often not heard on a policy level, which leads to a lack of efficiency and development as the realities and experiences of young people are not reflected adequately in policies and programs. Numerous calls stressing the necessity of youth involvement have been made, but still we do not see real change. We therefore emphasize the importance of meaningful youth participation at all levels of decision-making and programming. This is not only of key importance to the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda, but we also believe that young people have a fundamental right to participate in the processes that affect our lives. We believe in an approach that protects, respects, and promotes young people’s human rights on all levels.
As young people, we need control over our own lives. The 2030 Agenda not only paves the way for future generations, the process will shape our current realities. We want to help build an understanding by which societal norms, traditions and prejudices do not prevent any person from exercising their right to self-determination. Therefore, we endorse the 2030 Agenda and call on all governments to live up to the commitments they have made and to involve young people in the implementation process.
Of particular importance to us as young people is the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). SRHR plays a central role in achieving sustainable development, as it cuts across all sectors with links to health and development, gender equality, human rights, poverty, migration, education, sustainable economies, security, climate change, and environmental sustainability. It is a fundamental human right for every person, including young people, to be able to have control over their own sexuality and reproduction. Today, people all over the world are unable to exercise this right as they face stigmatization, discrimination, violence, and other barriers. Youth and adolescents (10 – 25 years old) are a group whose health and lives are particularly affected by these barriers, as there are still many taboos surrounding youth sexuality. We are therefore often left out of target-setting and decision-making. In fulfilling this ambitious agenda, we urge governments to ask yourselves: have I done everything to include the voices of all members of the affected community, especially those from marginalized groups such as young people?
We call upon governments to recognize and emphasize the right of young people to meaningfully participate in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the 2030 Agenda and to acknowledge the SRHR of young people and adolescents worldwide. Politicians and decision-makers must ensure political will to address our needs and commit to making our voices heard on all levels. We call governments to remember that young people must be both beneficiaries and partners in this process. It is only with the meaningful participation of young people that we can successfully achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Young people are the leaders of today, and with the full realization of their rights and their participation in the new development agenda, they will build a better future.
This statement is a joint initiative supported by the following youth organizations:
YSAFE – Youth Sexual Awareness for Europe
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality
YouAct – European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
ASTRA Youth – Central and Eastern European Network for Youth Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
Y-PEER – Youth Peer Education Network
GYCA – Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS